Analytical Reasoning (AR) questions are designed to assess your ability to consider a group of facts and rules, and, given those facts and rules, determine what could or must be true. AR questions appear in sets, with each set based on a single passage. The passage used for each set of questions describes a scenario involving ordering relationships or grouping relationships, or a combination of both types of relationships. Examples might include scheduling employees for work shifts, assigning instructors to class sections, ordering tasks according to priority, and distributing grants for projects.
The specific scenarios associated with these questions are usually unrelated to law, since they are intended to be accessible to a wide range of test takers. However, AR questions test skills that closely parallel those involved in determining what could or must be the case given a set of regulations, the terms of a contract, or the facts of a legal case in relation to the law.
In this sense, AR questions reflect the kinds of detailed analyses of relationships and sets of constraints that a law student must perform in legal problem solving. For example, an AR passage might describe six diplomats being seated around a table, following certain rules of protocol as to who can sit where. You might then be asked to answer questions about the logical implications of the rules as they apply to the scenario. For example, you might be asked who can sit between diplomats X and Y, or who cannot sit next to X if W sits next to Y.
Similarly, in law school you might be asked to analyze a scenario involving a set of particular circumstances and a set of rules that apply to the scenario—rules such as constitutional provisions, statutes, administrative codes, or prior rulings that have been upheld. You might then be asked to determine the legal options in the scenario: what is required given the scenario, what is permissible given the scenario, and what is prohibited given the scenario. Or you might be asked to develop a “theory” for the case: when faced with an incomplete set of facts about the case, you must fill in the picture based on what is implied by the facts that are known. Sometimes you will be asked to assess the impact of hypotheticals that add new information (as in the example above: If W sits next to Y, then who cannot sit next to X.).
AR questions test a range of deductive reasoning skills:
- Comprehending the basic structure of a set of relationships by determining a complete solution to the problem posed (for example, an acceptable seating arrangement of all six diplomats around a table)
- Reasoning with conditional (“if-then”) statements
- Inferring what could be true or must be true from given facts and rules
- Inferring what could be true or must be true from given facts and rules together with new information presented in hypotheticals
- Recognizing when two statements are logically equivalent in context
You don’t need any formal training in logic to answer these questions correctly. AR questions are intended to be answered using knowledge, skills, and reasoning ability generally expected of college students and graduates.